Why did Iraq invade Kuwait

■ Two forays into Kuwait / "Recovery of Iraqi property" / Airplane with UN inspectors rejected / Sharp reaction expected

Kuwait (AP / dpa / AFP / taz) - The cats does not stop to mice. One day after the US gave the all-clear after the ultimatum expired in southern Iraq, Saddam Hussein continued his cat-and-mouse game with the US administration and the UN and sent a squad of Iraqis across the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. Yesterday he went one better and repeated the action. In contrast to the case of the missile batteries in the no-fly zone, these operations do not pose a potential military threat to the Gulf War allies. But since the raids are directed against a UN member state and the Iraqi pinpricks occur at ever shorter intervals, a sharp reaction can be expected .

On Sunday, around 200 Iraqis - whether armed or not, information differs about this - entered Kuwait and stole weapons from a bunker in protest of UN observers stationed in the border area. They also captured four rockets of the Chinese type "silkworm". 24 hours later, around 150 Iraqis stormed the Umm Kasr naval base, which had been claimed by Baghdad, and took non-military material with them. There were no injuries.

The government in Baghdad justified the raids with the "recovery of Iraqi property". The Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed el Sahaf stated that the action was taking place in coordination with the UN observer force (UNIKOM). However, UNIKOM spokesman Abdel Latif Kabbadsch rejected this and said that the removal was illegal because Baghdad had not asked for permission beforehand and no UN approval had been given.

Iraq stored the stolen weapons in the bunker during the Gulf War. Subject to UN permission, Baghdad has until January 15 to clear any material it has left behind from the area. However, according to Kabbadsch, this is not the case.

The two incidents occurred in the demilitarized zone established by the UN in February 1991 between the two countries. The Iraqi leadership had not recognized the UN's re-marking of the border, which came into force last December. The disputed area had belonged to Iraq before the Gulf War, but was then awarded to Kuwait.

The conflict over the flights of their inspectors is likely to cause additional explosive in UN circles. The Iraqi leadership followed up on its threat from last week for the first time on Sunday and refused to land a foreign plane with inspectors on board. Since then, the more than seventy experts have been stuck in Bahrain. The leadership in Baghdad demands that the inspectors travel with Iraqi machines.

In the Iraqi capital yesterday, according to official figures, over 5,000 people, employees of the state airline Iraqi Airways and tourism companies, demonstrated against the air embargo in front of the headquarters of the UN development program. The sanctions prohibit, among other things, all international flights to and from Iraq. b.s.